The Fair At Kenduli

It happened all too suddenly . We had read a lot about this fair but

had never thought that one day we would be able to go there ourselves . The

fair in question is the three-day-long annual festival that is held in the

middle of January at Kenduli village in Birbhum . Kenduli is the birth-place

of the great Sanskrit poet Joydeb . Joydeb's 'Gitagovindam' is a collection

of poems on the divine love between Lord Krishna and Radha . So, the

Vaishnavites consider Kenduli as a place of pilgrimage and visit this place at

this time of the year . Moreover, Joydeb, being the propounder of attaining

salvation through love, is revered by the bauls of Bangla . These bauls are a

mysterious lot . Clad in saffron robes, you will find them wandering from

village to village singing songs, accompanied by their one-stringed instruments.

Their songs are usually allegories that refer to the secret practices that they

indulge in for attaining moksha . And this is the reason for which we wanted to

go there . We wanted to know more about the bauls and their songs .

We reached there on the night of the first day . The fair becomes

More lively after dark, just like the Pujas . Spread in and around the village,

along the bank of river Ajoy, it was so large that, at first, we felt lost

and just drifted along with the tide of humanity that was all around us . In

the middle was the temple of Radha and Krishna . Around it, were shops selling

various kinds of goods . From articles of daily use to fisherman's nets, you

could find them all here . Equally varied was the nature of food being sold .

Then there were the 'aakhras' or the sheds belonging to the various sects of

Vaishnavites . At a distance, the usual 'giant wheel' and 'merry-go-round'

could be seen . At all the aakhras, we saw people dressed in saffron,

singing songs in their high-pitched voices . There were so many microphones

blaring that it sounded like total confusion . After moving around aimlessly

for a while, we finally took shelter in a less-crowded aakhra . There we

listened to songs and then slept .

The morning was beautiful . The mikes were at last dying down . The

fair seemed to assuming shapes and directions with the coming light . And

the temple was towering over all, basking in the golden sunshine . We had a

nice time studying the intricate terracotta carvings on its walls . We were

really tired after a day's journey and a night's adventure . So, we rested

and resumed our 'investigations' in the evening . It was then that we found

what we were looking for . Placed in a remote corner of the fair, were the

closely spaced aakhras of the bauls and fakirs . It was totally different

from the hustle and bustle of the fair and suddenly, in the failing light,

we were transported to a different and mysterious world . That night, we

went back to that place . We had felt somewhat strange there and we wanted

to experience it more . But we could not . We talked to many people from the

cities who had come for the same experience . But we could not get to know

any of the bauls personally . So, when we returned to Kolkata the next day,

it was with a mixed feeling of awe and disappointment . We were reminded of

those lines by the famous baul Lalon Fakir, "...haater kaachhe hoy na khabor/

ki dekhte jao Dilli-Lahore ?..." (why do you go to far-off places like Delhi

and Lahore to see things that are near-at-hand) .